A transparent movie with solid corners…

When you make a movie, you need to ensure that your movie falls into a genre. If your movie doesn’t fall in a genre, your audience gets confused/bored because they expect something from your first frames. Luck By Chance unfortunately doesn’t have a genre and tries to mix three genres. End result: a transparent film that looks at Bollywood in a lot of ways but tries to mix drama in it.

LBC is about Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan Akhtar in another solid performance), an actor who comes from Delhi to Mumbai to follow his dreams of making it big in Bollywood. He has been trained in the Nand Kishore Acting School and is confident. He meets Sona Mishra (Konkona Sen Sharma) through a friend and they become friends. Meanwhile, Rommy Rolly (a fat Rishi Kapoor) is having casting issues in his son’s movie because Zafar Khan (Hrithik Roshan) wants a break. Through the extremes of luck, Vikram is asked to audition for the empty role. He finally gets the role. But then he has to face the responsibility of being a star.

All the humorous references to films in general i.e. A Fistful of Rupees, The Good, The Bad, The Worst, are good and are filled throughout the film. The acting of the production company is over the top, especially Rishi Kapoor. The homages and displays of the industry are great. But it’s a glam sham: too many stars in too long a running time. It’s a 2 1/2 hr mess that is transparent but has a lot of good aspects.

Writer-director Zoya Akhtar directs her first feature with ease. I guess it comes with an extensive knowledge of the Hindi film industry. The credits at the beginning are real good because of the relationship with the visuals and the field credited. The beginning of the movie starts well, sets up our characters, but we don’t know where the story goes. I seriously thought that upto the part where Vikram lands the role, the movie was a good look into the industry. Problem is, apart from being a look at Bollywood, this is nothing more and Vikram, our protagonist, has no direction in the story. Farhan’s acting is great, but he’s stuck in such a role where there is no direction. You can’t feel for any of these characters. I nearly slept at a point in the movie. Ah well…

With all this mess, I guess this deserves:

2/5.

The first bold Indian movie about real stuff…

Anurag Kashyap represents the new generation of Indian cinema. He may not be original, but a fusion of originality and intelligence combine in his latest, Dev. D. Kashyap borrows from Scorsese, Tarantino, Ritchie, and probably a lot more whom I can’t identify, but the way in which he blends these techniques is subtle, and works in the tone of Dev. D. Chronicling self-destruction, it shows the underbelly of both Delhi and human relationships. The writing here is good, fresh from all the other Hindi nonsense. Music also suits moods, and the Emotional Attyachar song sticks in your head.

Dev. D is about three main characters: Dev (Abhay Deol in a stunning performance), Paro (newcomer Mahie Gill), and Chanda (another fresh face, Kalki Koechlin). Paro and Dev were childhood friends, until Dev was sent to London by his stepfather. Paro wants Dev to come back to marry her and he does, at another wedding. But then, through a couple of skeletons rolling out of the closet, Dev shows his arrogant side and leaves Paro. Paro gets married to another guy. Dev gets depressed and starts obsessively drinking, snorting and hiring women. He is confused and that’s when he meets Chanda. Chanda is a prostitute who has a past and they both have experienced pain. Dev needs to think his life, which he doesn’t, and make decisions, which he doesn’t do. It all cumulates into a headlong crash.

In the acting department, the main characters are refreshing with none of the star status that would have pulled the film down. Abhay Deol acts with such placidity and cool and then transforms that into ferocity and rage which is a sight to watch. But Dev’s dilemma and feelings have been translated by Kashyap in such a way that the acting mixes with the gimmicks that Kashyap uses for us to observe Dev’s actions. Deol is definitely a good actor that reminds you of stars like De Niro in Taxi Driver, for this movie parallels that great one in its self-destruction concept. The fresh talent here solidifies our level of believing the story and Gill and Koechlin have good performances in a refreshing screenplay. The supporting cast moves the story forward for the main cast and they also deliver and don’t change the pace or mood of a scene.

Anurag Kashyap writes with his characters in mind. He already has the source material, Devdas, and he has taken the basic elements and thrown it into today’s world. Abhay Deol’s concept works and we are thrown into a look at Dev’s life with a harsh intensity. Kashyap uses the follow from the front technique I saw in Mean Streets and the Tarantino style of chapters and Ritchie’s way of throwing characters in water and it is fun to see this in Hindi cinema. Kashyap has made the smart Hollywood movie for Hindi audiences with an Indian story. And for a change, this movie isn’t laden with sentimental nonsense and isn’t too long. Good stuff from Kashyap and overall a movie that is bold. Maybe a little too bold, a bit unsettling at times, but it is refreshing.

4 3/4/5. (I don’t know why…just feels like it.)

CHAK DE!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s a monologue by Shahrukh Khan in Chak De! India that’s been hailed as the best dialog in the film. It’s called the ‘Sattar Minute’ monologue. It’s the finals of the Women’s Hockey World Championship. Kabir Khan, the coach in the film, tells his players that these 70 minutes are the most important in their lives. What Jaideep Sahni, the writer of this movie, does in this monologue is restate what we know: that this is the most important match, that the players are united and ready, and that this pep talk has to be the best. What Mr. Sahni also does is heighten the tension before the match, and even though we know the result, that monologue bloatens the tension and makes the stakes higher. That monologue is a piece of a great screenplay that makes Chak De! India, India’s underdog hockey story.

Chak De! starts in the past. Kabir Khan is playing for India in the Men’s Hockey World Championship Finals against Pakistan. After getting fouled, he goes for the penalty shot which skims over the bar. Hurt and disappointed, the crowd targets Khan for being bought by the Pakistan team after shaking the Pakistan captain’s hand and accuses him of purposely missing that crucial shot. Khan is outcast by his country. The movie flash-forwards 7 years later, when Khan goes for an interview for the post as coach of the National Women’s Hockey Team. He gets selected. Next, we meet the team. Mr. Sahni brings women from all over the country for a purpose: to create conflict between them which acts as the key for the team to win which is…if you guys are united, you’ll win. This group of women is as diverse as it is fun to watch. Dialog between them is funny, especially Balbir Kaur, the hot-headed Punjabi to the women from remote villages. Khan’s unorthodox training (benching the players) brings heads rolling and clashing and finally, because of the differences among the players, he resigns. Now, this The team is ready to take on the World Cup, but the Indian dudes refuse because they’re either too lazy or they want the good life they’ve been having or they don’t believe in Indian women. But then the Women play against the Men and they get sent to Australia for the Championships. And you know the end…we win.

Director Shimit Amin reuses the underdog formula but reinvents it with SRK’s performance and a fresh cast. The script obviously debases the usual path the story would’ve have taken and replaces it with quick dialog between the main cast. There is one fight scene that is also really funny, but it is the Point of No Return in the script, or the end of Act 1. The Chak De song is also very uplifting. But, other than this great script, nothing else can be said. Just watch it.

Reincarnation exists for a purpose: REVENGE!!!

When Shah Rukh Khan travels across time to avenge the one he loved, you know you’ll exit the theatre only after 3 hrs. When Arjun Rampal sports a thin dark mustache in 1977, you know he’s gonna make a comeback. And when Deepika Padukone is surrounded by fire, you know her debut performance will spread like wildfire. These are some among many elements that combine together to create OSO or Om Shanti Om. Its director, Farah Khan, blends the usual Bollywood masala and the inner workings of this gargantuan film industry to create a spoof/homage to Bollywood which is entertaining, but at the same time, the actual plot feels a bit left out and half-baked, especially in the past.

OSO starts in the past: 1977 to be exact. SRK plays Om Prakash Makhija, a junior artiste in Bollywood who dreams of becoming a superstar in this industry where your name is a factor for your status. He lives with his mother: Bela Makhija, who thinks she still has acting talent and loves her son very much. Shreyas Talpade plays Pappu Master, Om’s best and only friend. And so the story goes on to show that Om is truly in love with Shanti Priya (Deepika Padukone in her debut), the famous Bollywood starlet, and talks to her billboard. Well, through Om becoming an extra in her new film and he subsequent rescue of her, Om and Shanti become friends. Shanti has a couple of “secrets” that Om learns about, including one about her affair with Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal in one of his comeback roles). Mukesh needs money for the production of his new movie, Om Shanti Om, in which Shanti stars, and so to meet this necessity, he kills Shanti. Om, while searching for Shanti, witnesses Mukesh committing the crime and goes to save Shanti. He subqesuently dies. The last scene in 2007 shows us that Om had been reborn as Rajesh Khanna’s kid, and has a birthmark which is the Om symbol.

The next half of the movie takes place in 2007, where the “new” Om celebrates his 30th birthday. While shooting on location in a bunch of ruins, new Om experiences a flashback/epiphany and discovers himself. He resolves to avenge Shanti, his only love, by making Mukesh confess to his crime. That’s the rest of the movie: what Om does, how he reunites with his relations etc.

As a homage to Bollywood, OSO works in different aspects of the industry. Examples include the announcing of the nominees for the Filmfare Awards, or the shooting of the 1977 action scene. These spoofs are nice to watch, but they don’t add to the plot. The plot itself is a mess, and should’ve been worked on by the writers, Abbas Tyrewala and Topper Alam. Fact is, you know that the plot sucks, and yet because of SRK and the tone of a scene, you really like the emotion in the movie i.e. the Ajab Si part. That’s how Farah Khan does her movies: masala with purpose and lots of fun. Not much to say about dialog. Music rocks, and the dances are great, especially Dard-E-Disco.

Bottomline: A fun mess, but a 1/2 hr should’ve been edited from the 2007 half. Enjoy the spoofs, and be entertained. A one-time movie. Farah Khan can deliver entertainers. Not much to say about this one.

2/5.

When humans lose control and sci-fi takes a different meaning……….

There’s a scene in Dark City where the protagonist, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) and Henry Bumstead (William Hurt) take an axe and start hitting a brick wall. This is a symbolic scene. Why? Because the lab rats are getting out. The revelation in this scene is so shocking that it blew my mind away. I never ever expected what I saw. And that’s why Dark City is an excellent movie. It’s a bit underplayed and technically low in some scenes, but that’s the effect director Alex Proyas wants because of the premise of this sci-fi movie.

Dark City is a tough film to give a synopsis about because too many spoilers could be given out. It starts with John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) waking up in a hotel room he doesn’t remember being in and sees a naked dead body of a lady he doesn’t remember seeing or killing. He grabs whatever he has in the room and runs out. Murdoch then tries to find out who he is by contacting people he’s supposed to know: his wife, Emma (Jennifer Connelly) and his doctor (Kiefer Sutherland) who is the key to the story. Mean while, Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) is on the trail of Murdoch and suspects him of being the murderer of the recent serial killings. But then the whole plot turns in right angles with the appearance of the Strangers. And it’s always dark here…

Alex Proyas’ story is so creative that nothing like it has been seen before. Every single line of dialog adds to this enigmatic story. Each line of dialog is a clue i.e ‘Where is Shell Beach?’. The whole story takes sci-fi to different places. The ending of the movie is so uplifting as compared to its starting. The star of this movie is the screenplay.

The cast of this movie delivers “interesting” performances, especially Kiefer Sutherland and Richard O’ Brien. Rufus Sewell does a good job as the confused John Murdoch searching for the truth and his transformation in the climax is definitely not a cliche. That transformation makes things click. Jennifer Connelly’s performance has nothing to talk about, because she changes personalities near the end (spoiler!). Kiefer Sutherland definitely steals a part of this movie because he is a key character in this movie, and his performace raises questions about Daniel P. Schreber early in the film. Richard O’ Brien as Mr. Hand also has a performance that is wacky. William Hurt also has a solid supporting performance as the “blind” Inspector whose eyes are open to the truth.

Alex Proyas joins the ranks of great sci-fi directors who can narrate a great tale. His style in this movie is not slow, yet it paces at a speed that introduces each clue sequentially. Proyas also writes setpieces that increase the speed or dramatic scenes that slow it down a bit. In sci-fi, that’s what you need. I saw the director’s cut and the theatrical cut and realized that the director’s cut made the movie all the more better because it cut out the unnecessary clues and introduced new sub-plots. So…when you see this movie, watch the director’s cut. Proyas also uses a lot of symbolism: the dark and the light, the spiral, the beach and the syringe. The music in this movie is limited but when it does play, it heightens the tension. The colors in this movie are always black, brown and red…until the end. These colors maintain the tone of the movie: dark. the sets are all from another decade, and there’s an explanation for that in the secret of the movie. These are done well, creates a different atmosphere in the movie. The effects of the movie are not that first-class, but it does the job of transforming words to images and is cool. All these factors in the movie make a collage of sci-fi amazement and Dark City is definitely a must-see movie.

5/5.